Three Wise Women

It’s a pity that Christmas is over so quickly. Come Epiphany, the feast of the Wise men, and down come the Christmas lights, the tree decorations are packed  away until Advent comes round again and Joseph and Mary, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, three Kings and an angel or two are bubble wrapped for safety- and that’s Christmas done.

Like me, you may have noticed that as the Christmas story unwinds, Mary is surrounded by men. Luke gives no mention of sisters or cousins, no midwife or female helper for a young woman as she gives birth for the first time. Elizabeth and Anna, two women who were an integral part of Jesus’ infancy story, don’t appear in the Church’s Christmas readings. Anna is bundled into a February feast known as Candlemas while Elizabeth doesn’t get a mention until March 25th.

Three women, three wise women. Long before John the Baptizer pointed out Jesus as ‘the one who is to come’, Mary, Elizabeth and Anna recognised that in the new-born Jesus the old covenant was giving way to the new.

Luke presents Mary as a village woman, young, betrothed, pregnant, married, widowed, courageous, an empty-nester, prayerful and ministering, with a circle of women friends. Her initial response to God’s invitation came in the words of a gritty young woman, not afraid to ask a very pointed question, angel or no angel.  Her unwavering Yes to God was lived out under the military rule of a foreign occupying power, underpinned by Jewish male religious domination and, not to be underestimated, a son who she sometimes struggled to understand.

Cousin Elizabeth, no longer a young woman when we meet her in Luke’s Gospel, had suffered the stigma of childlessness, putting up with whispered comments and snide judgments from family and friends who inferred that infertility was a punishment from God for sin – hers, not that of husband Zachariah! He was learned in the Law, able to solve knotty religious problems and faithful to the requirements of his priestly state. Elizabeth was quietly and joyfully attuned to the God within her.

In these days when the place of women in the Church is such a source of pain and conflict we can look to Elizabeth – an older woman, faithful when it seemed hopeless, standing firm as she challenged custom and tradition. It was she who recognised the wonder and mystery of God at work, both in herself and in Mary, her young pregnant cousin.  

Women’s spirituality is often wrapped up in the minutiae of family and relationships, pregnancy and husbands. In reflective moments they are able to acknowledge that the gifts and skills that they bring to daily life bring them closer to God. Maybe this is because they are life-bearers and all new life, physical or spiritual, is carried close to the heart.

Anna was an old lady, a wise woman, tuned into God. To some she was seen as a religious crank, someone who doesn’t seem to have a life outside of religious practices. Over the years she had become a fixture in the Jerusalem Temple, watching families grow, blessing the babies of former babies, a model of prayer -to be wondered at but not copied.

She might have been old but she was fit; scooting around the temple precincts 24/7, greeting people, encouraging them, praying for them.  There was nothing much wrong with her eyesight and hearing either, because she not only saw from a distance her friend Simeon’s interest in one particular new baby, but she heard his words about a sword piercing the heart of the young mother.

 As a woman of God she knew that bringing up children could be heartbreaking, and as a woman with a compassionate heart she knew that it wasn’t something any young mum particularly wanted, or even needed, to hear. She felt, rather than saw, that this baby would be the light that would flood the darkness of a world groping towards God. Anna told everyone she met about the child. Knowing that she had lived to see that day filled her with hope and spilled over into joy.

Still today God’s human touch is woven through the  young, as they move into the future with an enviable energy, the middle aged, like Elizabeth, taking hold of their hard won wisdom and the Annas, longing to lift the darkness that hides hope and  let in God’s clear, clean light.


6 Replies to “Three Wise Women”

  1. Thanks Judith
    You have a gift of wonderful insights into the Gospels and life in general. I imagine you have a peaceful life.

  2. Blessings Judith.
    Thankyou for your welcome and timely reflection on the faithfulness of these amazing women. I love reading your thoughts about your own and other women’s faith journeys. Thankyou!

    I have been pondering for many years the way in which many faithful women in the Bible seem to have been rendered as mere footnotes to the more significant actions and stories of the men!!

    I have always loved the story of Anna and Simeon. I can imagine the wonder of their meeting in the temple with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. What joy!! I have always loved singing the song of Simeon during Morning Prayer in church. Even so, I feel sad that Simeon’s story can be seen by some, as the main event, when Anna’s faithful service and gift of prophecy was obviously such a profound one.

    Re-reading the Bible account today, I see the following words: “There was also a prophetess, Anna …” then, a brief summary of her insightful words. This absence of detail makes me want to learn so much more about what she actually said.

    So much happens in the “also” I think.



    1. Catherine, thank you for your response. I’ve taken a couple of days to reply because it triggered something in me and I wanted to spend time with it.

      I don’t receive many responses to what I write, but there was a sameness to the half dozen this time that centered around women in the Gospels. I’ve had a niggling for a long time that suggests that I write more scripture centered posts. So, to cut to the chase, I’ve decided to do that, focusing Words from the Edge on the women whose stories pepper the Gospels but who remain un-named. Let me know how I go.

      You wrote to me a little while back and quoted your mother’s words: “Fresh air thinking”. Well, it’s alive and well isn’t it. Thank you for your words.

      Keep cool and safe, we are on a journey to somewhere edgy.

      With love,


      . From: Words From The Edge

      t: Friday, January 21, 2022 7:10 AM To: Subject: [Words From The Edge] Comment: “Three Wise Women”

  3. Blessings Judy,
    I want to thank you for this beautiful reflection. For some time I have been particularly interested in the women in the Bible and I appreciate your insight into these wonderful and wise women. Thank you again.

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